A Travellerspoint blog

October 2018

The United Kingdom


sunny 40 °F

We were supposed to fly home today, but with the bad weather and late in the day flights, there was a high probability that we would get stuck in Atlanta or JFK, neither of which was desirable. So, we explored some more of Edinburgh.

Our first stop was the Queen's Official residence in Scotland, Holyrood Palace. Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining. Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.


After a bite to eat in the adjoining cafe, we headed to a much less visited, but wonderful castle - Craigmillar Castle - on the outskirts of town. The Preston family of Craigmillar, the local feudal barons, began building the castle in the late 14th century and building works continued through the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1660 the castle was sold to Sir John Gilmour, Lord President of the Court of Session, who made further alterations. The Gilmours left Craigmillar in the 18th century, and the castle fell into ruin. Craigmillar Castle is best known for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots. Following an illness after the birth of her son, the future James VI, Mary arrived at Craigmillar on 20 November 1566 to convalesce. Before she left on 7 December 1566, a pact known as the "Craigmillar Bond" was made, with or without her knowledge, to dispose of her husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Craigmillar is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Scotland.

We had a great trip having driven 1345 miles. Scotland is up at the top of my list along with Ireland of my favourite countries.


Posted by rpickett 08:38 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged edinburgh Comments (0)

The United Kingdom

Glencoe to Edinburgh

semi-overcast 49 °F

Last night a cold front came through, and the highlands of Scotland got its first snow of the season on the mountain peaks.. but the air was clear and little rain. We left our hotel and headed through the highlands - a summit of 1140m - to Edinburgh. The scenery was spectacular and after the highlands, we had a bite to eat at one of the several cruises on Loch Lomand. The Loch is a freshwater Scottish loch which crosses the Highland Boundary Fault, often considered the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands. Traditionally forming part of the boundary between the counties of Stirlingshire and Dunbartonshire, Loch Lomond is split between the council areas of Stirling, Argyll and Bute and West Dunbartonshire. Its southern shores are about 23 kilometres (14 mi) northwest of the centre of Glasgow, Scotland's largest city. The Loch forms part of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park which was established in 2002. Loch Lomond is 36.4 kilometres (22.6 mi) long and between 1 and 8 kilometres (0.62–4.97 mi) wide, with a surface area of 71 km2 (27.5 sq mi). It is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain by surface area; within the United Kingdom, it is surpassed only by Lough Neagh and Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, although within the British Isles as a whole there are also several larger loughs in the Republic of Ireland. The loch has a maximum depth of about 153 metres (502 ft) in the deeper northern portion, although the southern part of the loch rarely exceeds 30 metres (98 ft) in depth. The total volume of Loch Lomond is 2.6 km3 (0.62 cu mi), making it the second largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain (after Loch Ness) by water volume. The loch contains many islands, including Inchmurrin, the largest fresh-water island in the British Isles. Loch Lomond is a popular leisure destination and is featured in the song "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond". The loch is surrounded by hills, including Ben Lomond on the eastern shore, which is 974 metres (3,196 ft) in height and the most southerly of the Scottish Munro peaks. A 2005 poll of Radio Times readers voted Loch Lomond as the sixth greatest natural wonder in Britain.




Posted by rpickett 10:11 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged edinburgh to glencoe Comments (0)

The United Kingdom


all seasons in one day 50 °F

We woke up this morning to classic Scotland weather, clouds, wind, mist, and rain...but we were not going to let that deter us. Our first stop was the Mountain Experience - just north of Ft. William. In the winter, it is a ski area - usually open from January to April, but the rest of the time it is used for mountain biking and hiking and folks taking the gondola to the top of the hill. The resort is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty on Rannoch Moor and offers stunning views of the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor. In summer the centre offers chairlift rides, mountain biking (Downhill and XC), tubing, hill-walking, climbing, photography and great home cooked food in the panoramic log cabin cafe. In winter skiing, snowboarding, sledging and avalanche rescue training are available and the resort has both the longest and the steepest ski run in Scotland.


After some great Mac and Cheese (the Scots are into that) we headed back down the hill, and drove to Steall Falls. It is Scotland's second highest waterfall with a single drop of 120 metres (390 ft). The fall can be viewed from the path that runs through the Nevis Gorge, an area owned by the John Muir Trust which manages the area for its wilderness qualities. An Steall Bàn means "The White Spout" in Gaelic. The trail into the falls - quite rugged, is 1 km. I only made it about 3/4 of the way as I had the right footware on, but needed in hiking stick to make it the rest of the way. All was good though except for the flat tire that awaited us when we got back to the car. A very kind person (younger) from Southampton, helped us change the tire in the great Scottish mist.


Since we had a space saver spare tire, we headed to Ft. William to a tire repair facility that I found on Google. They were great. It turns out that we had to buy a new tire, since a probable pothole on the road to the falls - single lane - got the wall of the tire. After the tire repair we went into town walked around and visited St. Andrews Church before back to the Inn. We had a wonderful dinner with a couple from outside London and shared a bunch of stories from each side of the pond.


Posted by rpickett 09:54 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged glencoe Comments (0)

The United Kingdom

Islay to Glencoe

all seasons in one day 52 °F

It was up early this morning since we had a 30 minute drive to Port Ellen to check in at 0915 for the ferry back to the mainland. Port Ellen (Scottish Gaelic: Port Ìlein) is a small town on the island of Islay, in Argyll, Scotland. The town is named after the wife of the founder, Frederick Campbell of Islay. Its previous name, Leòdamas, is derived from old Norse meaning "Leòd's Harbour". Port Ellen is built around Leodamais Bay, Islay's main deep water harbour. It is the largest town on Islay, only slightly larger than Bowmore and provides the main ferry connection between Islay and the mainland, at Kennacraig. The Port Ellen Distillery was first established in the 1820s and ceased production of Scotch whisky in 1983. The large malting continues to produce for the majority of the distilleries on Islay.

After debarking, we headed north to Glencoe Scotland but took a quick side trip to the Dunstaffnage Castle a major player in the defense of Western Scotland. The castle dates back to the 13th century, making it one of Scotland's oldest stone castles, in a local group which includes Castle Sween and Castle Tioram. Guarding a strategic location, it was built by the MacDougall lords of Lorn, and has been held since the 15th century by the Clan Campbell. To this day there is a hereditary Captain of Dunstaffnage, although they no longer reside at the castle. Dunstaffnage is maintained by Historic Scotland, and is open to the public, although the 16th century gatehouse is retained as the private property of the Captain. The prefix dun in the name means "fort" in Gaelic, while the rest of the name derives from Norse stafr-nis, "headland of the staff".


Posted by rpickett 09:57 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged castle dunstaffnage Comments (0)

The United Kingdom

Islay Hebrides

all seasons in one day 52 °F

My son-in-law is a big fan of Lagavulin Scotch, so, since he is the father of my grandson, we took the ferry to Islay (pronounced Eela), to visit the distillery. Unfortunately this was the "quiet season" so tour were not being offered, but the experience was still great.

Islay is the end of the earth. Islay is the fifth-largest Scottish island and the seventh-largest island surrounding Great Britain, with a total area of almost 620 square kilometres (239 sq mi). There is ample evidence of the prehistoric settlement of Islay and the first written reference may have come in the 1st century AD. The island had become part of the Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata during the Early Middle Ages before being absorbed into the Norse Kingdom of the Isles. The later medieval period marked a "cultural high point" with the transfer of the Hebrides to the Kingdom of Scotland and the emergence of the Clan Donald Lordship of the Isles. During the 17th century the Clan Donald star waned, but improvements to agriculture and transport led to a rising population, which peaked in the mid-19th century.

The distillery of Lagavulin officially dates from 1816, when John Johnston and Archibald Campbell constructed two distilleries on the site. One of them became Lagavulin, taking over the other—which one is not exactly known. Records show illicit distillation in at least ten illegal distilleries on the site as far back as 1742, however. In the 19th century, several legal battles ensued with their neighbour Laphroaig, brought about after the distiller at Lagavulin, Sir Peter Mackie, leased the Laphroaig distillery. It is said that Mackie attempted to copy Laphroaig's style. Since the water and peat at Lagavulin's premises was different from that at Laphroaig's, the result was different. The Lagavulin distillery is located in the village of the same name. Lagavulin is known for its producer's use of a slow distillation speed and pear shaped pot stills. The two wash stills have a capacity of 11,000 litres and the two spirit stills of 12,500 litres each.

Our hotel tonight is wonderful four star 200 year old inn - the Port Charlotte Hotel.


Posted by rpickett 10:24 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged islay Comments (1)

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